Merzouga Rally: Sherco TVS' Pedrero fourth, Hero's Santosh in top 15
Sherco TVS' Juan Pedrero broke inside the top five in the second stage of Merzouga Rally on Monday, while Hero’s CS Santosh finished as the leading Indian rider in 15th.
After a relative short stage on Sunday, competitors faced their first major challenge in Stage 2, which spanned a distance 241 km in the dunes of Morocco. Out of the total distance, 188 km was timed, while the remaining 53 km was for a transportation section.
Pedrero was one the star performers of the day, jumping from seventh to fourth with a time of 3hr38m21s. He trails rally leader Xavier de Soultrait by 12m43s heading into tomorrow’s Stage 3.
Meanwhile, the Indian contingent was again led by Santosh, who set the 14th quickest time of the day to move to 15th in the overall standings.
“First real stage of Merzouga, and I was a bit nervous to start with,’’ Santosh, who remains India’s only Dakar finisher, said.
“My focus was to navigate well and not get lost because today’s stage was quite a complex stage with a lot of navigation.
“I am happy that I was able to achieve that and gave myself a lot of confidence for tomorrow. All in all a very good day and I am looking forward to the upcoming stages.”
After a troubled star to his first international rally, Sherco TVS’ Abdul Wahid put in an impressive performance to outpace his more experienced teammate Aravind KP.
Wahid ended 29th in Stage 2 with a time of 5hr04m27s, but sits one place behind Aravind in the overall standings.
The two Indian riders are classified in 33rd [Aravind] and 34th places [Wahid], separated by just 7 minutes and 16 seconds.
Aravind later revealed that he had a crash during Stage 2, with reliability problems adding to his misery.
"It was not that great because I had some falls in the dunes. The bike was on top and I was on the bottom," he told Motorsport.com.
"Then my bike didn’t start for half an hour, there was some sand in the wiring I guess. So lost a lot of time but I think it’s good as far as you get to the finish line
“It was really cool learning today. I was pretty good at navigating, maybe just at the end I lost a little, but overall I fill good for the navigation for sure.
“I think yesterday was like a gentle touch (laughs), today was like a bang! It was hard to leave but I think it’s good that we can ride in such event so we can train for Dakar very well. This will definitely help us a lot. It’s a good feeling being here, for sure."
Meanwhile, Hero's Joaquim Rodrigues, who was the top rider on an Indian bike in Stage 1, lost ground after missing a way point.
He has fallen to eighth place in the overall standings, but remains in touching distance of the top runners with four stages still to go.
“Today the start was good and I was aggressive in the dunes to gain time, but around the 50 km mark I lost some time finding the secret waypoint,” he explained.
“After the first checkpoint there was a lot of dust and it was hard to attack, so I preferred to keep it safe and bring the bike back home.”
Additional reporting by Sergio Lilo
Merzouga Rally: Hero, Sherco TVS in top 10 after Stage 1
Merzouga Rally: De Soultrait extends lead with stage win